2019: Pork for the New Year

Any way you slice it, using pork for seasoning adds a sublime flavor to time honored traditional Southern Soul food dishes like black-eyed peas and collard greens.

But did you know that the establishment of pigs in American cuisine has had a very long culinary history?

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Wild Boar

For the most part, wild pigs (also known as wild hogs, wild boar, or feral swine) are an Old World species and are not native to the Americas. The first wild pigs in the United States originated solely from domestic stock brought to North America initially by early Spanish explorers and settlers. Many years later, Eurasian wild boar were introduced into parts of the United States for hunting purposes. In areas where domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boar were found together in the wild, interbreeding occurred. Today, many hybrid populations exist throughout the wild pig’s range.

The existence of the pig dates back 40 million years to fossils which indicate that wild porcine animals roamed forests and swamps in Europe and Asia. Remains of the earliest known North American peccary, Perchoerus, are from late Eocene sediments dating from 37 million years ago in North America. But , for the sake of this discussion, domesticated pig that holds our interest.

Pigs were domesticated in China around 49,00 BC, although some experts claim that between 7,000 to 60,000 BC pigs were fully domesticated in Western Asia and by 15,00BC, they were being raised in Europe. The Ancient Romans have been credited for improving breeding and spread pork production throughout their vast empire.

Before 10,000 BC, Jewish religious law and dietary rules banned the eating of pork before, based on a belief that pigs were unclean since they ate waste, and there was the fear of disease. Early Christians also shunned pork, however, by 50 AD those dietary restrictions were relaxed. In practices of Islam, the prophet Muhammad also banned the consumption of pork, resulting in a severe decline in the pig population of the Middle East and Western Asia. Europe, being principally Christian, embraced the pig: Swine ate anything, reproduced prodigiously, and their meat was easily preserved. By the 1500’s in Europe, the Celtic people in the north were breeding large-bodied, well-muscled pigs, while in Southern Europe, the Iberians had developed smaller-framed, lard-type pigs. All of the pigs of this time period were dark-colored.

Historical records document the voyages of Christopher Columbus on behalf of King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella II of Spain in 1492. Columbus mission was to sail west to explore the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus set sail with 87 men and in three small ships named Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria. What he “discovered” was the Western Hemisphere and christened the this new territory, the New World , claiming it for Spain. Subsequently, colonization of the New World under the Crown of Castile was initiated under the royal authority and first accomplished by the Spanish conquistadors. The Americas were incorporated into the Spanish Empire The crown created civil and religious structures to administer the region. The motivations for colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Catholic faith through indigenous conversions.

Beginning with the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Western Hemisphere and the continued control of vast territories for over three centuries, the Spanish Empire would expand across the Caribbean Islands, half of South America, most of Central America and much of North America (including present day Florida and the Southwestern and Pacific Coastal regions of the United States). It is estimated that during the colonial period (1492–1832), a total of 1.86 million Spaniards settled in the Americas. In contrast, the outcome for indigenous populations was much worse, with an estimated 8 million deaths following the initial conquest through enslavement and contact with old world diseases.

Upon his return to the New World, at Queen Isabella’s insistence, Columbus took eight pigs on his voyage to Cuba in 1493. Because swine could survive the voyage with minimal care, they supplied an emergency food source if needed, and those that escaped provided meat for hunting on return trips. Europeans considered this lack of proper animals for work and consumption unacceptable. Thus, the first contingent of horses, dogs, pigs, cows, sheep, and goats arrived with Columbus’ second voyage in 1493. The arrival of these hoofed immigrants would fundamentally alter Indigenous ways of life forever. Many of the indigenous tribes eventually began to use horses to transform their hunting and gathering into a highly effective and mobile practice. And so the Columbian Exchange had begun.

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The term, “Columbian Exchange” , was first used in 1972 by historian Alfred W. Crosby in his environmental history book The Columbian Exchange. It was rapidly adopted by other historians and journalists and has become widely known in the literature of economics and other disciplines. The Columbian Exchange refers to the exchange of diseases, ideas, food crops, and populations between the New World and the Old World following the second voyage to the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The Old World, which included Europe and the entire Eastern Hemisphere gained from the Columbian Exchange in a number of ways. The discoveries of new supplies natural resources, like metals such as gold and silver are perhaps the best known. But the Old World also gained new staple crops, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, and cassava. Less calorie-intensive foods, such as tomatoes, chili peppers, cacao, peanuts, and pineapples were also introduced, and are now culinary centerpieces in many Old World countries, namely Italy, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries (tomatoes), India and Korea (chili peppers), Hungary (paprika, made from chili peppers), and Malaysia and Thailand (chili peppers, peanuts, and pineapples).

Moreover, the changes in agriculture significantly altered and changed global populations. The cultivation of financially lucrative crops like tobacco and sugar in the Americas, along with the devastation of native populations that also were enslaved and died from disease, resulted in a demand for labor that was met with the abduction and forced movement and enslavement of over 12 million Africans during the 15th to 19th centuries (Lovejoy, 2000; Manning, 1990).

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The Triangle Trade

 

But did you know that in the early 1540s Spanish conquistador and explorer Hernando de Soto and his men traversed the Gulf Coast and officially introduced fifteen hogs to the American South. At the time, the consumption of pork was a Christian duty for every Spanish-speaking Catholic. In fact, during the Spanish Inquisition, it became obligatory to have pork simmering in a cauldron or chorizo sausages hanging from the rafters as proof of the household’s faith.

In addition, at the time of Spanish Conquest of the New World, Spain was facing internal divisions of its own. To put this period of Spanish colonialism into the proper context, it will take a moment to review Spanish history.

The Reconquista is the term used describe the period in the Spanish history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 780 years, between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1491. The completed conquest of Granada was the in context of the Spanish voyages of discovery and conquest and giving Columbus got royal support in Granada in 1492, months after its conquest), and the Americas—the “New World”—ushered in the era of the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires.

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Traditional historiography has marked the beginning of the Reconquista with the Battle of Covadonga (718 or 722), the first known victory in Iberia by Christian military forces since the 711 military intervention in Iberia of combined Arab-Berber forces. In that small battle, a group led by the nobleman Pelagius defeated a Muslim patrol in the mountains of northern Iberia and established the independent Christian Kingdom of Asturias. It ended with the conquest of the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim state in the peninsula, in 1491.

The Spanish Inquisition established in 1478 was — officially known as The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition and established by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and to replace the Medieval Inquisition, which was under Papal control. It became the most substantive of the three different manifestations of the wider Catholic Inquisition along with the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. The “Spanish Inquisition” may be defined broadly, operating in Spain and in all Spanish colonies and territories, which included the Canary Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America.

The Inquisition was originally intended primarily to identify heretics among those who converted from Judaism and Islam to Catholicism. Subsequently, the Holy Inquisition Against Depraved Heresy was established in 1481. After 1491, the entire peninsula was controlled by Christian rulers. The conquest was also about the regulation of the faith of newly converted Catholics was intensified by issuing of several royal decrees including the Alhambra Decree (1492) which expelled Jews who would not convert to Christianity from Castile and Aragon, and a series of edicts issued between 1499 and 1526 which forced the conversions of the Muslims in Spain Catholicism or leave Castile.

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Tomas de Torquemada (1420-1498)

The Holy Inquisition Against Depraved Heresy was primarily directed against conversos, former Jews, who were accused of religious heresy and political subversion through secret Jewish practice. To establish such practice, the Inquisition trials under the direction of Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada (1420 –1498), who, perhaps not surprisingly, was also of converso origin, took testimony about the accused’s alleged Jewish activities — many of them, as it happens, culinary in nature. One Inquisition list of Jewish food practices, as noted by David Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson in their book, “A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews” (1999).

In an effort to expel Spanish Muslims, as well as Jewish people, from Spain, King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I relaunched what was known as the Reconquista, the re-conquest of Spain, the coincided with the Spanish Inquisition.

As a strong Spanish identity formed around the idea of the Reconquista, food became a powerful symbol of Spanish culture. For instance, consider “pork”: Among Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic people, only Catholics could eat “pork,” since for Muslim and Jewish people, the consumption of “pork” was forbidden. During the re-conquest, as individuals were being forced to prove that they were pureblooded Spaniards, they would often be offered “pork” to eat. Any refusal to consume “pork” would be taken as a sign that such people were not true Catholic Spaniards and would subsequently be expelled from Spain, persecuted, or even killed. According to modern estimates, around 150,000 were prosecuted for various offenses during the three centuries of duration of the Inquisition, out of which between 3,000 and 5,000 were executed.

For the most part, it is interesting to note how food was used as a weapon during the Inquisition.The Inquisition was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the preceding century. Since the mid-19th century, the idea of a ‘re-conquest’ took hold in Spain associated with its rising nationalism and colonialism.

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Hernado de Soto ( c. 1500-1542

The second introduction of pork into the New World came with Spanish explorer and conquistador, Hernando de Soto (c. 1500 – 1542). De Soto was involved in expeditions in Nicaragua and the Yucatan Peninsula, and played an important role in Pizarro’s conquest of the Inca Empire in Peru, but is best known for leading the first Spanish and European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States (through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and most likely Arkansas). He is the first European documented as having crossed the Mississippi River. Many food historians claim de Soto to be the true “father of the American pork industry.” He brought America’s first 13 pigs to Tampa Bay, Florida, in 1539. As the herds grew, explorers used the pigs not only for eating as fresh meat but for salt pork and preserved pork. Indigenous tribes were reportedly so fond of the taste of pork that attacks to acquire it resulted in some of the worst assaults on the expedition. By the time de Soto died three years later, his original herd of 13 pigs had grown to 700 – a very conservative estimate. I am pretty sure that this number did not include the pigs eaten by his troops, those that escaped and became wild pigs (the ancestors of today’s feral pigs), and those given to the American Indians to keep the peace.

And thus, the pork industry in America had begun.

In the centuries following European exploration and colonization of what would become the eastern United States, free-range livestock management practices and escapes from enclosures resulted in the establishment of wild pig populations and promoted their spread.

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Hernan Cortes (1485-1547)

On the domesticated front, pig production spread rapidly through the new colonies. The third introduction of pigs in the Americas occurred under the direction of Hernán Cortés (1485 – 1547) a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of what is now mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers who began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Cortés introduced hogs to New Mexico in 1600 while English explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh (c. 1552 -1618), brought sows to Jamestown colony in 1607. Within the next decade, semi-wild pigs ravaged New York colonists’ grain fields to the extent that every pig 14 inches in height that was owned by a colonist was required to have a ring in its nose to make it easier to control it. On Manhattan Island, a long solid wall to exclude rampaging pigs was constructed on the northern edge of the colony; it created the name for the area now known as Wall Street. By 1660 the pig population of Pennsylvania Colony numbered in the thousands. By the end of the 1600s, the typical farmer owned four or five pigs, supplying salt pork, ham, and bacon for his table; any surplus was sold as “barreled pork” , that is pork meat preserved in salted brine, and stored in wooden barrels). Finishing pigs before slaughter on corn became popular in Pennsylvania, setting the new standard for fattening before the late fall pork harvest.

At the end of the 1700s, pioneers started heading west, taking their utilitarian pigs with them. Wooden crates filled with young pigs often hung from the axles of prairie schooner wagons. As western herds increased, processing and packing facilities began to spring up in major cities. Pigs were first commercially slaughtered in Cincinnati, which became known as “Porkopolis”; by the mid-1800s Cincinnati led the nation in pig processing.

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Getting the pigs to market in the 1850s was no small task. Drovers herded their pigs along trails, with the aid of drivers who handled up to 100 pigs each. It is estimated that between 40,000 and 70,000 pigs were driven from Ohio to eastern markets in any given year. A herd could travel 5-8 miles a day and covered total distances up to 700 miles.

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In 1887 Swift & Company introduced the refrigerated railroad car, chilled by a solution of ice and salt. It should be noted that the technological advancement of mechanical refrigeration would not appear until 1947. The refrigerated railroad car created a revolution in pig farming where slaughterhouses could be centralized near production centers since processed pork meat could be shipped instead of live hogs. Large terminal markets developed in Chicago; Kansas City, Missouri and Sioux City, Iowa. Centralized packing plants were located adjacent to the stockyards. The natural progression was for the pork industry to relocate to the Upper Midwest, where the majority of grain was raised; Corn Belt morphed into Hog Belt. Today Iowa is still the top pork producer in the States.

Even today, Ossabaw ,a direct descendent of the original Iberico black-footed hogs imported by the Spaniards to Savannah, Georgia, some 400 years ago, is still being raised on farms in North Carolina. Their meat has superior taste and texture, with marbling that retains the moisture of the meat.

The first wild pigs in the United States originated solely from domestic stock brought to North America by early European explorers and settlers. Many years later, Eurasian wild boar were introduced into parts of the United States for hunting purposes. In areas where domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boar were found together in the wild, interbreeding occurred. Today, many hybrid populations exist throughout the wild pig’s range.

Pork is considered lucky to eat on New Year’s Day in many cultures. The association was formed centuries ago in Europe when wild boars were caught and killed on the first day of the year – providing the family food for months to follow. Additionally, a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground in a forward direction – symbolizing positive momentum. Strengthening the association of plenty in America, on most farms the first cold snap signified that it was time for the annual hog slaughter. Neighbors gathered to pitch in at each house, and livers, cracklins, and chitterlings were enjoyed immediately. The hog fat was boiled and rendered into lard, and all scraps of meat were ground up for sausages. Sides of bacon, hog jowls, shoulders, and hams were cured in salt for weeks before they were hung in the smokehouse along with sausages, ham hocks, and knuckles. Every part of the hog was used, providing an abundance of pork in the larder for the following year.

Pork has become an essential flavoring ingredient in black-eyed peas and greens, adding a smoky, rich flavor that gives these traditional dishes their soul-satisfying staying power.

And did you know that 2019 is the Year of the Pig on the Chinese Calendar?

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The pig is the twelfth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac sign. The pig represents luck, overall good fortune, wealth, honesty, general prosperity, symbolizing a hard working, a peace-loving person, a truthful, generous, indulgent, patient, reliable, trusting, sincere, giving, sociable person with a large sense of humor and understanding.

Sources and For Further Reading:

Brown, Linda K., and Kay Mussell. 1984. Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
Counihan, Carole, ed. Food in the USA: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 2002. Collection of essays, several of which deal with immigrant foodways, their evolution, and their impact on American cuisine.
Crosby, Alfred W. 1972. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492.Westport, CT:  Greenwood Publishing Group.
Gitlitz. David and Linda Kay Davidson 1999. A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews. New York: St. Martin Press.
Lovejoy, Paul E. 2000. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Manning, Patrick. 1990. Slavery and African Life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

 

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Sake Dean Mahomed

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Sake Dean Mahomed was an Anglo-Indian traveller, surgeon and entrepreneur who was one of the most notable early non-European immigrants to the Western World. He helped break down cultural barriers between India and England in the early 19th century by introducing Indian cuisine and shampoo baths to Europe, where he offered therapeutic massage at a spa established. He was also the first Indian author to publish a book “The Travels of Dean Mahomed”, in English on January 15, 1794 .

Born in 1759 in the city of Patna, then part of the Bengal Presidency, Mahomed came from Buxar. His father, who belonged to the traditional Nai (barber) caste, was in the employment of the East India Company. He had learned much of alchemy and understood the techniques used to produce various alkali, soaps and shampoo. He later described the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and the cities of Allahabad and Delhi in rich detail and also made note of the faded glories of the Mughal Empire.

Sake Dean Mahomed grew up in Patna, and his father died when Mahomed was young. At the age of 10, he was taken under the wing of Captain Godfrey Evan Baker, an Anglo-Irish Protestant officer. Mahomed served in the army of the British East India Company as a trainee surgeon and honourably served against the Marathas. Mahomed also mentions how Mir Qasim and most of the entire Bengali Muslim aristocracy had lost their famed wealth. He complained about Shuja-ud-Daula’s campaign against his Rohilla allies and how Hyder Ali defeated the British during the Battle of Pollilur. Mahomed remained with Captain Baker’s unit until 1782, when the Captain resigned. That same year, Mahomed also resigned from the Army, choosing to accompany Captain Baker, ‘his best friend’, to Britain.

In 1794, Mahomed published his travel book, titled “The Travels of Dean Mahomed“. The book begins with the praise of Genghis Khan, Timur and particularly the first Mughal Emperor Babur. It later describes several important cities in India and a series of military conflicts with local Indian principalities. Editor Michael Fisher suggested that some passages in the book were closely paraphrased from other travel narratives written in the late 18th century.

In 1810, after moving to London, Sake Dean Mahomed opened the first Indian hindoostane_coffee_house_(7599806070)restaurant in England: the Hindoostane Coffee House in George Street, near Portman Square, Central London. The luxurious restaurant offered Georgian Brits such delights such as hookah “with real chilm tobacco, and their first taste of curry in Indian dishes, … allowed by the greatest epicures to be unequalled to any curries ever made in England.” Unfortunately, this venture was ended two years later due to financial difficulties.

Before opening his restaurant, Mahomed had worked in London for nabob Basil Cochrane, who had installed a steam bath for public use in his house in Portman Square and promoted its medical benefits. Mahomed may have been responsible for introducing the practice of champooi or “shampooing” (or Indian massage) there. In 1814, Mahomed and his wife moved back to Brighton and opened the first commercial “shampooing” vapour masseur bath in England which was a spa providing a combination of a steam bath and an Indian therapeutic massage The establishment was located on the site now presently occupied by the Queen’s Hotel. He described the treatment in a local paper as “The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame legs, aches and pains in the joints”.

This business was an immediate success and Dean Mahomed became known as “Dr. Brighton”. Hospitals referred patients to his care and he was appointed as shampooing surgeon to both King George IV and William IV.

In 1814, Mahomed moved to the beachside town of Brighton and opened the first commercial “shampooing” bath in England, providing a combination of a steam bath and an Indian therapeutic massage. His business flourished, promising to cure diseases and provide relief from various physical pains.

He was so successful that soon he became known as “Dr. Brighton,” with hospitals referring patients to his care. He was also appointed shampooing surgeon to British kings George IV and William IV.

Sake Dean Mahomed and his wife Jane had seven children: Rosanna, Henry, Horatio, Frederick, Arthur, Dean Mahomed (baptised in the Roman Catholic church of St. Finbarr’s, Cork, in 1791 and Amelia (b. 1808). His son, Frederick, was a proprietor of Turkish baths at Brighton and also ran a boxing and fencing academy near Brighton. His most famous grandson, Frederick Henry Horatio Akbar Mahomed (c. 1849–1884), became an internationally known physician and worked at Guy’s Hospital in London. He made important contributions to the study of high blood pressure. Another of Sake Dean Mahomed’s grandsons, Rev. James Kerriman Mahomed, was appointed as the vicar of Hove, Sussex, in the late 19th century.

sake2Mahomed died in 1851 at 32 Grand Parade, Brighton. He was buried in a grave at St Nicholas Church, Brighton, in which his son Frederick was later interred. Frederick taught fencing, gymnastics and other activities in Brighton at a gymnasium he built on the town’s Church Street.He began to lose prominence by the Victorian era and until recently was largely forgotten by history. The literary critic Muneeza Shamsie notes that he also authored the books Cases Cured and Shampooing Surgeon, Inventor of the Indian medicated Vapour and Sea Water Baths etc.


Rose Petal Jelly

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From the earliest times, indeed throughout the history of civilization, people from around the world have held the rose close to their hearts.

Earliest roses are known to have flourished 35 million-years ago originating  in Asia.The earliest known gardening was the planting of roses along the most traveled routes of early nomadic humans.

In ancient Mesopotamia, Sargon I, King of the Akkadians (2684 BC — 2630 BC) brought “vines, figs and rose trees” from a military expedition beyond the River Tigris.

Rose petals were used in Ancient Egypt, and petrified rose wreaths have been unearthed from Egyptian tombs of antiquity. During the  late Ptolemic period (305 BC–30 BC), Cleopatra had her living quarters filled with the petals of roses so that when Marc Antony met her, he would long remember her for such opulence and be reminded of her every time he smelt a rose. Her scheme worked for him. Such is the power of roses.

The “rosa gallica” was already praised by the Greek poet Anacreon in the 6th century BC. Roses

It was probably brought to Gaul with the Roman conquest. The Romans cultivated a great beauty. Rose petals were also popular in Rome and Greece with the oil produced from them being used as both a medicine and as a perfume for wealthy Romans. The rose petals were used for balms and oils in the Roman society, particularly when worshiping the dead.Roman high society women used petals much like currency believing that they could banish wrinkles if used in poultices. Rose petals were often dropped in wine because it was thought that the essence of rose would stave off drunkenness and victorious armies would return to be showered with rose petals from the civilians that crowded the balconies above the streets long before the confetti and ticker tape parades welcoming events and people of note in New York City in the 20th Century. The Romans also used them as adornments at weddings where they were made into crowns to be worn by the bride and the groom.

And Even though petrified  remnants of roses wreaths have been  have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs and the evidence of rose hips having been found in Europe, the earliest record of roses being  cultivated by the Chinese  was about 5,000 years ago.

And because of trade and wars, the rose has been popular throughout the Middle East, with Iran being the center of it all.  You see, Iran, historically known as Persia, is situated on a bridge of land that connects the Middle East with the Far East. And because of Persia’s  geographic position, roses  have also been a staple in Persian cuisine for over a 3,000 years. It has a considerable place and  historical value in the evolution of the culinary arts from the Middle East to Europe, as it was right in the center of the ancient Silk Road.

The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West. and  derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk carried out along its length, beginning in the Han Dynasty (207 BC –220 CE). Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, Korea, Japan, the Indian subcontinent, Iran/Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations.  Though silk was the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, and technologies.

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Traders in antiquity along the Silk Road in include the  BactriansSogdiansSyriansJews, Arabs, Iranians, Turkmens, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Somalis, Greeks, Romans, Georgians, and Armenians (Hansen 2012). In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network (Bentley, 1993).   And has thus, a transitional point where  exchange of cultures and the trade of exotic products and cuisine  were passed between the West and the Orient for thousands of years.

Ancient Persians took their wares to all the corners of the world, in particular pomegranates, saffron and spinach, and the country also played host to much of the bargaining between the East and West. These bargained goods, including rice, lemons and eggplant, now feature prominently in the national Iranian dishes were traded for silk and roses.  Roses have been used in Persian cuisine for 3,000 years. In fact, the use of rose petals in Middle Eastern cooking is largely the product of Persian influence. Rose petals were adopted throughout the Middle East after the Persian Conquests which established the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) and subsequently the Sasanian Empire (224–651 AD),and eventually roses were in many cuisines throughout the world including Indian and Chinese food.

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Roses often show up in Turkish delight, a Middle Eastern confection that is one of the oldest sweets in the world. Turkish delight can be made with rose petals or with rose water. They also often show up in certain blends of the Moroccan spice mix known as ras el hanout and in some sweetened rice dishes from India.

In Persian cuisine, dried rose petals have been used  in several dishes to flavor or as a garnish. Rose petals are often used to make rose water, which is a less-perishable way to get the rose flavor into baked goods like cakes and puddings. In the Persian household, rosewater is a regular pantry ingredient that is added to sweets, desserts and even coffee.

A popular dessert in  modern Iran just happens to be Bastani, a Persian rose and vanilla ice cream desert that is often garnished with cream chunks and sugar coated rose petals (For the Bastaini Recipe, follow the link to: The Persian Fusion, 2015).

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Eventually roses made their way to France. It is said that Thibaud IV, Count of Thibault_IV_Comte_de_ChampagneChampagne (1201-1253), He initiated the Barons’ Crusade in 1239 and  was famous for being a trouvère, and was the first Frenchman to rule Navarre O’Callaghan 1975). According to most historians, the Barons’ Crusade was not  a glorious campaign, but it  did led to several diplomatic successes (Richard, 1999). Souvenirs that he brought back to Europe included a piece of the true cross and the Chardonnay grape which in modern times is an important component of champagne. Thibaud also brought back a rose bush what was named “Provins” (Latin name rosa gallica ‘officinalis’, the Apothecary’s Rose) from this diplomatic expedition to Jerusalem. Though oral tradition is strong, this is not confirmed by any written chronicle, but the evidence of rose appearing in France during this time, lends credibility to the tale (Fray 2007). Thibaud’s poetic spirit was undoubtedly in awe of the beauty of the rose gardens found in the palaces of the Sultan of Damascus.It is said that Thibaud wanted to cultivate this rose on the hillsides of the Châtel in Provins. One can imagine that, from this intensive cultivation was born the link between the city and the flower, that from then on has been present in the city’s traditions: distinguished visitors, such as Kings Francis Ist, Henri IV, Louis XI, or Queen Catherine de Medicis were offered cushions of dried petals (Evergates, 2007).

Provins always had a vested interest in the cultivation of roses. Over time, these roses63654988_ce06cd1c1f have constantly evolved and wild roses started growing next to those cultivated for specific needs (Fray, 2007). This is true of the Rose of Provins, The apothecary rose, first recorded in the 13th century, and was the foundation of a large industry in growing roses that produced  jellies, powders and oils,  because this particular rose was believed to cure a multitude of illnesses. OLIVIER DE SERRES (1539-1619). French author and agricultural scientist, the father of agronomy in France, identified “several virtues to the one who distills rose water used by apothecaries of syrups and other things…” (Hoffman 1984).  And thus, products with medicinal properties where produced in the form of syrups to relieve digestive problems; as a lotion for dry skin; as products to clean and purify the skin; and made as a rock candy to soothe the throat.And these products are still being made and are still  being used in these modern times.

And since medieval times,the rose is still strongly associated with Provins’ confectionery creativity. Provins still produces all sorts of foods from roses, and its main specialties are rose petal jam, fruit jelly, rose honey, rose candy chocolate, liqueur and other delicacies. Provins is also   a large producer of wine, with the medieval methods of wine making are still being carried out by residents, and some vineyards are still being used to produce to  rose petal wine to this very day (Johnson, 1989) .

 And whether in France or in the Middle East, rose petal jam made from fresh rose petals often makes an appearance on the breakfast table to be eaten with bread and butter or clotted cream.The sophisticated floral flavor of rose petal jam truly elevates the foodie palette.

And it should be noted that the flavor of rose petals differs depending on which type of rose plant produced them. They can have a floral sweetness or a tartness similar that which comes from citrus fruit. They can also be mildly spicy. They are often intensely aromatic, which is the quality that is most valuable for cooking.

And given the rather long culinary history, how I came to adore rose petal jelly was through my Grand’s love of growing her own pink roses, not just for their beauty, but because she loved rose petal jelly too! This is her recipe that I share with you today.

Enjoy!

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Ingredients:
4 cups pink or red edible roses* (See Cook’s Notes)
6 cups water
1 lemon
6 Tablespoons Class Ball Powdered Pectin **(See Cook’s Notes)
3 cups granulated white sugar

Directions:
Measure the petals.Rinse in cold water to remove debris and small bugs, and drain using a colander. Add the petals and the water to a large saucepan . Set the saucepan on the stove and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the petals simmer for fifteen minutes.

Using a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth,pressing all the liquid from the petals strain the liquid into a bowl to cool slightly. Discard the petals.

Measure the liquid. There should be 4 cups. Add additional water to equal 4 cups of rose liquid, if necessary.

Juice one large lemon into the rose water.

Return the liquid to the saucepan, and add the pectin, stirring thoroughly. Place the saucepan back on the stove bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.

Once the liquid is boiling, add 3 the sugar and continue to mixture it boil for an additional two minutes.

Skim any foam that may form ontop of the jelly.

Ladle the jelly into prepared sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and cap the jars with the lids and rims. Let the jarred jelly sit to cool and set on the counter overnight.

Jelly can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months.

To preserve for storage at room temperature, cover jars with lids and rims, place in a hot water bath (2 -3 inches boiling water) for 15 minutes at a hard boil. However, it should be noted that the jelly must be refrigerated after opening.

Serve this versatile accompaniment with scones, crumpets, toast, croissants and other treats. The jelly also has a variety of uses, including using it as a glaze over fruit or tea cakes and even over vanilla ice cream.

Cook’s Notes:
*All edible flowers must be free of pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases they are treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.

Dried rose petals are great in herbal tea mixes, too. You can also mix dried rose petals, tiny rose buds and a few cardamom pods with black or green tea leaves for an exotic brew.

Dried rose petals sold in UK supermarkets and online are mostly sourced from Pakistan and are usually of rosa canina variety. They are dark pink or crimson in color. Persian dried roses are pale pink and come from damascene roses. Both are good for food decorating but  most  Persian cooks prefer dried roses, available from Middle Eastern groceries and online, for use as a spice.

After boiling, you will notice that the water becomes a dingy brown, and the petals will lose their color. Do not fret. When adding the lemon juice, the acid from the lemons, will transform the liquid into a bright pinkish red.

** One 1.75 ounce package of powered pectin can be used a reasonable substitute.

Sources:
“How to use rose petals in cooking”. (2017). The Persian Fusion. Retrieved July 1, 2018.

“Provins in the dark”. Retrieved June 23, 2018.

Digest, The Reader’s (1978). The world’s last mysteries. Montréal: Reader’s Digest. p. 303. ISBN 089577044X.

Our Rose Garden.:The History of Roses: University of Illinois Extension. (2018). Retrieved July 1, 2018. Retrieves July 1, 2018.  https://extension.illinois.edu/roses/history.cfm

Bentley, Jerry (1993). Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 32.

Boulnois, Luce (2005). Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants. Hong Kong: Odyssey Books. p. 66. ISBN 962-217-721-2.

Elisseeff, Vadime (2001). The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. UNESCO Publishing / Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-92-3-103652-1.

Evergates, Theodore (2007). The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Fray, Jean-Luc (2007). Villes et bourgs de Lorraine: réseaux urbains et centralité au Moyen Âge (in French). Presses Universitaires Blaise-Pascal.

Hansen, Valerie (2012). The Silk Road. OUP US. p. 218. ISBN 9780195159318. Archived from the original, Retrieved June 20, 2017. Jewish merchants have left only a few traces on the Silk Road.

Hoffman, Philip. (1984). “The Economic Theory of Sharecropping in Early Modern France”. The Journal of Economic History 1984, page 312.

Johnson, Hugh. (1989). Vintage: The Story of Wine pg 122. Simon and Schuster.

O’Callaghan, Joseph F. (1975). A History of Medieval Spain. Cornell University Press.

Richard, Jean (1999). The Crusades, C.1071-c.1291. Translated by Birrell, Jean. Cambridge University Press.

Tyerman, Christopher (2006). God’s War:A New History of the Crusades. Penguin Books.

Xinru, Liu, (2010). The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 11. “Republic of Korea | Silk Road”. en.unesco.org. Archived from the original. Retrieved June 25, 2018.

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